BY DONNA WESTFALL
I met with Alissia Northrup, the Registrar of Voters/County Clerk. She is in charge of vote counting. They have 3 Sequoia voting systems called Optech Insight. They use it in conjunction with the Win EDS computer program.
My questions to Alissia were regarding the sanctity of the vote. How are we, the voting public, assured that our vote will be counted and counted accurately?
First she handed me an OBSERVER tag to put on my jacket. Then she took me into the vote counting room. She showed me the Sequoia machine and picked up the Memory Pack that gets locked into place inside the machine. This allows everything to be set at zero. This memory pack is reusable. Before anything is officially tallied, for weeks in advance, tests are run to make sure everything is in good order and tested. Pre-testing is called Pre-Lat or Pre Election Testing.
Once the Memory Pack is in the machine, plugged in and reset to zero; it records everything on it.
She has 18 precincts to run. When ballots come in there are 3 people who process them.
1 person slits them open.
1 person takes them out and puts them in a pile
1 person checks for errors or if they are ripped.
In the case of being ripped, then they duplicate them.
Over half of the ballots are now done by absentee vote or vote by mail. When a ballot comes in, the first thing they do is check for a signature and address. Each envelope has a bar code. They scan the batch, go into election management system and they put in the 1st voter. It brings up their address and signature. Sometimes people forget to sign or put their address down. Sometimes, someone will come into the office and hand them a ballot and she has had to run down the hall to catch them and have them correct it. If there is no name or address, then the ballot is tossed.
When asked about duplications, she states it is rare to have duplications. In one instance, a woman voted twice because her husband passed away and she thought she could vote his ballot too. It was not considered a crime. Her intent was not to defraud the voting system. No charges were filed because it goes to the issue of intent; voting twice is considered a felony.
I asked what happens if someone terminates their Post Office Box and didn’t receive their ballot in the mail. In that case, she said that they can pick up a ballot from the County Clerk or get a provisional ballot at the polling place and vote. It’s not a problem.
Here’s what a provisional ballot envelope looks like: There is space to insert a voter registration card which is done first. Then, there’s a space to insert the ballot which is done second.
You cannot use a Post Office Box for an address. You must use a physical address.
Alissia Northrup states that she even goes into the jail to make sure people have ballots in order to vote. Convicted felons can vote as long as they are not on parole. You can be on probation and still vote, but you cannot be on parole.
Actually, this year there is not yet same day registration and voting. Next year it will become available because of a bill and Vote Cal that will go into effect. What this does is allow a State-wide database to be in place with instantaneous, real time data input.
I then watched as she put a ballot into the Sequoia machine and saw it being spit out. This test ballot had marked 2 votes for the governor’s position. If it goes through it’s called an Over Vote. That is only if it’s not clearly marked indicating a mistake was made by the voter. If she can tell that the voter made a mistake by crossing out one choice and remarking another choice, then she will duplicate that ballot and run it through the machine.
How many people are in the vote counting room? About 8:
1 person feeding the 2 machines
2 other observers
1 from the Democratic Central Committee
1 from the Republican Central Committee
1 from Registered Non-Partisan
1 – Ed from Maintenance who is from Oregon
1 – from Dominion tallying system (which is the company that does the Win EDS programming) for tech support
Plus cameras are on, plus people can stand in the lobby and watch through the window, plus they have live streaming to the Board of Supervisors room.
Of the 12,400 registered voters as of the close of registration on May 19th, about 7,000 people are people who vote by mail.
Vote counting will start on Monday, June 2nd at 3pm with all the ballots received in the mail. That should cover between 3,000-4,000 of the votes. They are done by 5 pm
What types of problems have they encountered? No major problems. Oftentimes, she runs from one polling place to another to check on things. She trains the poll workers. All ballots are counted and when voting is finished, the poll workers break the seal on the black ballot box and count. Any un-voted ballots are part of the count. Every single ballot has to be accounted for by the end of the night.
They have 28 days to finish counting. Even if Ms. Northrup has to leave the office, the counting continues by staff.
95% of the time, ballots are not counted because people forget to write their address on the envelope. 5% of the time, they neglect to sign their envelope. If you don’t sign and put your physical address on, your vote will not be counted.
All of this sounds good. It all sounds secure. NEXT let’s look at ways that the system can be corrupted.